A Summation of Soumaks
My next piece had been planned to be in monochrome with emphasis on textures. But what textures? I decided to do a sampler.
Texture can be added in four main ways (considering here only flat-weave):
- by warp wrapping – which is the basis for the Soumak technique,
- by the insertion of supplementary wefts,
- by looping, such as a continuous, uncut ‘rya’,
- by a combination of the above.
I wove 12 soumak variations, based on the examples in Mette Lise Rossing’s ‘The Threads Course in Tapestry’. The sampler is very small: width 15 cm (6”), height 10 cm (4”). In the list below the block type gives the corresponding paragraph number in Mette Lise Rossing.
Reading from the bottom up there is
- mlr 75 open soumak, one pass, ;
- mlr 77 closed soumak, one pass;
- mlr 78 open soumak, one pick, closed soumak one pick, open soumak one pick;
- mlr 82 double open soumak, one pass, notated as forward 3 back 2 or 1/3/2;
- mlr 84 double closed soumak, one pass, 1/3/2;
- variation on mlr 79-81 extended open soumak, one pass, 1/5/3, so with overlap;
- variation on mlr 79-81 extended closed soumak, one pass, 1/6/2, so no overlap;
- mlr 91 double closed soumak on alternate warps, 3 picks, each alternating with the last;
- mlr 93 as 8 but with the insertion of a supplementary weft;
- mlr 102 a ‘continuous rya’, one pass – can be seen as open and closed soumak on alternate warps, the second pick alternating with the first;
- mlr 103 as 10, but the second pick stacked on the first;
- mlr 90 3 triple half-hitches, knots to the front, one pick – essentially a triple closed soumak on 1 warp.
Items 1 and 2 show the basic soumak chevron. The doubled variations in 4 and 5 make the chevrons larger, more obvious.
Item 3 stacks one half only of the chevron.
Items 6 and 7 give elongations of the chevron, and convey a sort of lengthening, smooth effect.
Items 8 and 9 have an interesting pattern variation, quite different to the ‘bricky’ or chained appearance of items 10 and 11.
Item 12 gives the appearance of a strong raised welt.
There seem to be 4 basic patterns:
1 the chevron
2 the ‘fasces’ – items 8 and 9
3 the chain – items 10 and 11
4 the ‘welt’ or ridge – item 12.
There are clearly a large number of possible variations, depending on
1 the number of warps crossed forwards and backwards,
2 whether open or closed,
3 whether crossings are over or under, and
4 whether the following pick is stacked or staggered.
The notation I improvised above does not cover all the possibilities. A full notation system would be quite complicated, BUT when actually working it is essential to know exactly how the effect is being produced and to be consistent in its application.
If anyone knows of a notation method, I’d be interested to hear of it.
For this exercise I used this little ramshackle sampler loom, knocked up in a hurry and held together by string, a clamp and hope. The open frame dimensions are width 27 cm (10.8”), height 32 cm (12.8”).